By Renaud Anjoran
I have been following HC Accessories‘s blog for a few months, and they just published a good article (Essential Garment Quality Control Procedures for Importers and Brands).
It lays out nicely the basic guidelines an importer of garments should follow to ensure good quality assurance.
I have known Jamon and Matt for a few years, here in Shenzhen. They manage production of soft goods for overseas buyers. They have great experience in that domain.
Here are the 3 guidelines they suggest.
1 . Providing Tolerances In Your Measurements
Some company buy garments in China or other low-cost producing countries without even having a size chart. In many cases the supplier doesn’t give it to the customer (do you expect them to commit to something?). This is a disastrous approach.
Another common case is the company that has a size chart that shows standard values but no tolerances. There is progress here, and some basic principles can be agreed on without writing any number — for example, ‘no more than half the gap between the size and the next size’, or ‘no left/right difference over 5mm in the center front’. However, this is far from perfect.
HC Accessories write:
There are likely to occasionally be slight discrepancies between garments. That’s not to say it’s acceptable for any discrepancies to be large, or even noticeable. Customers will quickly lose trust in your brand if the fit of your garments is not consistent or trustworthy.
Very true. Consumers expect the same ‘fit’ with all the garments you offer under the same brand.
2. Ensuring Materials Are Good Enough
Another issue I often see is importers that give the green light to production based on a sample they approve, without knowing what type of fabric is used, what standards it has to comply with (e.g REACH), and what other laboratory tests it has to pass (e.g. color shading).
HC Accessories write:
Assuming you’ve chosen a reliable manufacturer after doing your research, you’ll still need to place various inspection points into your production time frame to ensure that your garments are being made according to your standards!
Many buyers have the fabric and some critical accessories checked before cutting can start. Once it’s cut, it is hard to return to the sub-supplier or to use it for another customer!
3. Inspections, Inspections, Inspections
Unfortunately, cut & sew factories are so backward in their approach to production, it is really important to keep inspecting the quality of their output.
HC Accessories write:
Those considered to be experienced importers, or those utilizing the experience and resources of fashion production management teams in China will know all too well the costly risks of not performing inspections and placing all your trust in the factory you’ve commissioned to produce your products.
There are mainly 3 types of inspections when it comes to garment production:
- Start of production: in case the line leader pushes a few garments all the way to the end of the line, it is possible to check those “top of production” samples and give feedback.
- During mass production: keep insisting on the standard and give feedback to the production staff.
- After production is over: it is the only time when average quality can really be checked.
The earlier issues are found, and the clearer your expectations, the better:
If you’ve found defects in your garments or the products and materials being used to manufacture them at the end of the production run, the factory may need to reorder or completely reproduce the product which will result in obvious time delays and could lead to a strained relationship over who is liable for bearing the cost of the mistakes. This is why it is key to be crystal clear with every dimension and requirement for your garments and build these facts into your contract. If defects are found, but your original specifications were found to be ambiguous, the factory will likely refuse to repair or reproduce your garment.
This is very very common for buyers of garments in China… You’ve been warned!
Renaud Anjoran has been managing his quality assurance agency (Sofeast Ltd) since 2006. In addition, a passion for improving the way people work has pushed him to launch a consultancy to improve factories and a web application to manage the purchasing process. He writes advice for importers on qualityinspection.org.